Chronic Fatigue: 4 Diet and Lifestyle Tips to Tackle

It goes by many names: chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), myaligic encephalomyelitis (ME).  Whatever you want to call it, it requires lifestyle changes to cope, and bed rest is not a quick fix for those that are truly afflicted.  If you have this condition, you know who you are!  You may also remember your life before the condition and after, that red line of health and when it was crossed and what triggered your seemingly endless fatigue. This condition may also be associated with fibromyalgia.

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Here are some tried and true tips to help this condition:

Manage your weight.  Under the circumstance, this can be a huge challenge. If you are needing to pace yourself with rest (which is how most people cope), then you will be sitting more. This means that your overall calorie intake needs to be vested in nutrient rich foods that do NOT also yield a lot of calories. It’s amazing what a difference there is in terms of calorie burn on days you are mostly sitting vs. being able to walk around all day when you may be feeling more normal.

I am a huge fan of fitness trackers for just this reason. Knowing real time energy output on bad days and then better days, helps immensely in weight management. By looking at the data, one’s food consumption can be adjusted accordingly. Remember that to maintain weight, calories consumed must match calories burned!

Do eat a nutrient dense diet. Your calories need to “count” from a nutritional standpoint because there may not be a lot of discretionary calories for you to be eating if you are burning few calories due to your fatigue and limited activity.  The better quality diet will only increase your chances of feeling better.  There’s no guarantee, but it can’t hurt.

Too tired to prepare food?  Never cook for only one meal.  Double batch and use your freezer.  Don’t be afraid of a frozen meal such as Healthy Choice brand meals.  I guarantee they are healthier than that fast food or take out meal you might eat because you are too tired to deal with dinner!

Consider certain supplements.  The condition remains one that the established medical community cannot open a text book and find solid direction on how to treat.  With that said, there are a few supplements that may be helpful.  Consider CoEnzymeQ10, D-ribose, and probably a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.  I don’t uniformly recommend the latter to patients, but when calories need to be restricted to manage weight, it is not a bad idea in my opinion.  The CoQ10 and D-ribose are tied in with our biochemical energy cycle, and I personally find them to be helpful.

Know your boundaries.  While boundary setting is not necessarily a nutrition tip, it is an important lifestyle tip. Learn to say “no” if you feel it will compromise your health.  Many of us are so eager to be normal, that it is very easy to overdue it when we feel on the normal end of the spectrum.  Both mental and physical pacing need to be first and center in your life.  If you are reading this, you are probably all too familiar with the “crash and burn” cycle of both chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.  Doing too much at a time can result in being a limp rag doll later. Best to manage that precious resource called energy and pace yourself all day and every day-even when you may be feeling “normal”.

What tips can you share to live your best life?

 

 

Food Games: Do you Play?

Chess pieces on chessboardAre you a master at deception? Are you always having a conversation with yourself that manages to sabotage your newest efforts to finally lose weight?  If so, chances are pretty good that you have a dialogue in your head that needs to change.  If you are having the following self conversations, it’s best to redirect your dialogue to help you win at weight loss.

The Clean-Plate Game.  You know this game:  eat it all up because some people are starving!  If you eat up all the food when not hungry, you are not helping anyone that is starving!  Or, you paid for it so you must eat it.  At home, put less food on your plate.  In a restaurant, ask for the people box prior to digging into the large plate of food, and acknowledge that while you still paid for it, you now have food for another meal so you doubled your value.

Skipping Breakfast Game:  You think you will eat less overall calories by limiting what you consume in the morning. Many studies indicate that when people do this, they manage to consume more total calories in a given day.  Other studies show that when people consume substantial calories in the morning, they use those calories to meet energy requirements more efficiently, and store less of that energy in fat cells.  Consuming the bulk of your calories at the tail end of the day is less productive for your body weight and energy levels.  You will just be hungry and crabby all day, and may over indulge at night.

Dining and Taking Out Food Game.  Do you really know what is happening in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant and take-out place?  I would venture to guess that this food has much more fat, calories, and sodium than you would find in your own kitchen.  Try to limit relying on outside sources for your food unless you are able to confirm with nutrition labels that it is a healthy option.

It’s for Company Mantra Game! There are many variations to this one: there is also “It’s for the kids.”  Do the M & Ms really need to be in a bowl for your grandchildren and shouting to you all the time? I have grandchildren too, but I would not have a candy bowl sitting out all the time, because I certainly like the chocolate at well.  Get the treats for kids, grandchildren, and company, but keep a limited stock that is purchased just prior to their arrival or hidden away with little access.  Better yet, get a treat that does not pose a high temptation threat to you!

The Game of Willpower.  I don’t feel that most people successful at weight loss can use the power of willpower.  Over the long haul, they should instead think “smart” on eating strategies:  keep a clean kitchen free of high temptation foods, keep small amounts or portion controlled foods that you conceptualize as treats, or if food is just too tempting to avoid once in your kitchen, just don’t put it into your grocery cart in the first place.  Willpower, in my book, is a short-term bandage fix that doesn’t really last long enough to help you achieve weight loss.

Taking a step back to evaluate the games you play in life will help you be successful at weight management.

Do you play any other games? Care to share your strategies for helping to “win”?

Making Weight Loss a Reality: 5 Surefire Simple Steps

Woman Stepping onto ScalePerhaps you started off the year with the best intentions, like most people.  You were going to hit the gym and lose twenty pounds by March.  Then the wind, snow, and winter doldrums came, and have not gone away.  Your best intentions for weight loss fizzled out as you became tired of it all, again (both the snow and the lost commitment).

It happens! But, this can be the beginning of the end of your weight loss hassles as long as you follow some historically successful suggestions.  Consider the following:

  • Know your “magic” number.  You need to eat fewer calories than your body needs in order to burn body fat, which is the objective in weight loss.  You do not want to lose water or muscle mass, you want to lose body fat.  If you take your current weight, and multiply by 10, this will be a good gauge of the amount of calories you should consume to cause weight loss.  So, if you weigh 135 and you wish to lose weight, multiply 135 by 10, and your good starting point is 1350 calories.  If you have a complicated workout schedule or need very specific guidance due to diseases such as diabetes, PCOS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, consider consulting with a dietitian to find the best calorie prescription for your circumstances.
  • Track your food.  It truly works!  If you know your magic number, but have no idea how much you are eating, you will stay fat.  My favorite tracking tool is MyFitnessPal because it is a very user-friendly app and makes tracking food a snap.  You can literally snap a picture of a bar code on a food item and the nutrition information will go to the data base.  Because everyone is on the go, using this app for food tracking eliminates the need to park yourself at the computer.  If you track your food as you move through your day, it will also be much more accurate!
  • Eat only foods you can really track.  If this means you avoid a restaurant because you do not have the nutrition information, so be it.  You want to be accurate with your food tracking, so make it a policy to eat only what you can intelligently measure in terms of calories.  MyFitnessPal has a large nutritional data base, but you won’t be able to accurately document your chicken parmesan from your favorite local Italian restaurant.  You will be guessing on the calories, and this is to be avoided.
  • Get a good digital scale.  Ok, you hate weighing your food, I know.  But the reality check here is that you don’t need to do it often.  For instance, I started tracking my food today, and weighed my portion of peanuts.  The label stated that 1 oz. of peanuts was 160 calories.  I knew I was not going to eat that many of my calories as peanuts, so I weighed out 1/4 oz.  I counted the peanuts as roughly 15, so now I know what a reasonable portion is for me.  Another point, leave the scale on the counter to remind you to use it!
  • Moving around helps.  Yes, exercise is great, but if you cannot exercise, that is not an excuse for not losing weight.  Exercise aids weight loss both in the short and long-term, but you can so undermine your gym time by not paying attention to what you put into your mouth.

No one ever said it was easy to lose weight.  Like anything important, it takes some effort and concentration.  With that stated, I believe anyone can lose weight, you simply need the right tools and commitment.

 

5 Tips to Trim Thanksgiving and Trim You Too!

Turkey DinnerWith Thanksgiving around the corner, here are 5 simple ideas to trim your calorie count on Thanksgiving without feeling like you gave up your favorite holiday foods. If you keep in mind that most of the calories are lurking in hidden fats in your meal, you can eat slightly larger amounts of other foods, and not worry about adding another notch to your belt or wearing stretch pants for the rest of the week.

Turkey. Turkey is a lean meat. Just watch your portion size and keep in mind that a normal serving size looks like a checkbook or deck of cards. Skip the extra fatty gravy (or make your own low-fat gravy), and avoid eating the skin.  And, don’t be afraid to experiment with some of the packaged dry gravy options.  They have virtually no fat, and I have never had a guest complain about these types of gravy!

Stuffing. Avoid stuffing the dressing inside the turkey cavity. When you cook the stuffing in the turkey, you are adding more fat by virtue of turkey drippings. Dish out fewer calories and lower the overall fat content of your stuffing just by baking in a separate casserole dish.

Potatoes. Why not make your mashed potatoes with skim milk, fat-free sour cream, or broth? All these options will slash your fat and calories if making from scratch! If you order the potatoes from carry out or a restaurant, chances are they are loaded with both fat and sodium.

Alcohol. Choose a light beer, champagne, or dry wine. These are all lower calorie options to toast the November holiday.

Pumpkin pie. Have you considered a crustless version? Or, have one with crust and be the sneaky one eating the crustless version. Virtually all of the fat and calories end up in the crust, and the rest of the pie is full of health enhancing beta-carotene, fiber, and protein. Cut the sugar slightly and cut the calories more.

Here’s my recipe! 

Do you have other tips for a healthy holiday dinner? Have a very happy Thanksgiving.

5 Weight Control Tips for December Damage Control

Woman Stepping onto ScaleWeight loss in December is not usually the objective for my clients.  Most of my clients simply hope to hold the line on their weight.  The challenges of the holidays are numerous:  shopping which leads to more frequent fast grab lunches at the mall, office parties, stress-related eating, and family or friend gatherings during the holidays.  Here are 5 tips to help you manage the tipping point on the scale:

  • Try to eat a healthy meal before hitting the mall.  If your shopping period is an all day affair, then plan your restaurant meal in advance.  Use the Internet to preplan your options at your mall restaurant by reviewing the nutrition information online.
  • For office parties and gatherings, try to have a healthy snack of fruit or veggies prior to the festivities.  If you are feeling a sense of fullness, it will be easier to resist some of those high temptation goodies which are sure to be available.  If you are having lunch catered in, see if you can find out the menu so you can preplan how you will handle the meal to meet your health and weight objectives.
  • You can help your stress-related eating by simply controlling your eating environment at home.  Make sure your kitchen is full of healthy food options which are easy to prepare as opposed to a kitchen full of high temptation baked goods and candy.  If you must bake for the holidays, keep those baked treats where you cannot easily get to them.  Better yet, store them at skinny friend’s house.
  • For gatherings with family and friends, contribute something to a potluck which meets your dietary objectives.  Make it something healthy, but something you can enjoy as well.  Fresh shrimp, a fruit platter, or crackers with reduced fat cheese spreads are good options.
  • Watch those alcohol calories!

An ounce of prevention is probably worth much more than a pound of cure.  It is much easier to avoid weight gain, than to undo those unwanted December pounds come January.

Wishing my readers a happy and healthy holiday season and 2013.

Another Shot at Weight Loss: Is B12 the Magic Bullet or Bunk?

Last evening the topic in my college nutrition class was vitamins.  As we came to the topic of vitamin B12, several students inquired about B12 for weight loss.  One student said her former pediatrician suggested she take B12 to help with weight loss.  Several  students in other course sections asked repeated questions about B12 shots for weight loss.  I must admit I was stumped as to why they would even ask about this. THEN, the spa Groupon email came this morning advertising B12 shots.  The Groupon ad suggests B12 injections as an additional therapy for boosting energy and the body’s metabolism for those looking to lose weight.  The price: a mere $69.00 for 12 vitamin B12 injections.  This a major savings from the original hefty retail value of $480.00!  This all begs the question as to if there is any benefit to B12 injections for weight loss.

We do like to take pills and look for magical methods to lose weight easily. Unfortunately, I would have to say this is just another one of those gimmicks.  I can find no sound scientific basis for suggesting additional B12 from supplements or injections to aid in weight loss.  If someone is tired from the anemia due to a B12 deficiency (called pernicious anemia), then administration of B12 will indeed give that person more energy because the person needs the B12 to treat that specific type of anemia.  But, for the rest of us, that B12 will neither give us more energy or boost our metabolism.  There are ways to boost one’s metabolism, but chowing down on more B vitamins or injecting them is not a way to raise our metabolic rate.  We get energy from the calories in our foods and resting our bodies.  B vitamins do not give us energy, they are needed in small amounts to help the biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies to release energy from foods-that gives us energy!

Most people who eat animal protein are getting more than sufficient amounts of B12.  B12 is derived from animal protein, and since many Americans eat more protein than recommended, B12 is not usually an issue.  For vegans,  it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement to meet requirements.  However, many foods are fortified with B12 (such as cereals which may have 100% of B12 requirements provided in a single serving) so not all vegans would necessarily need to be taking a supplemental form of B12.

Have you tried B12 shots for weight loss?  Did you see any benefit?  Right now over 200 Groupon deals have been sold!  Is this a waste of money or helpful for your waistline?

 

 

 

 

Ice Cream: 6 Tips to Slimming Down Summer’s Special Treat

Ice cream is a special summer treat for family outings.  For many of us, summer is the time we went to the local ice cream shop for a special treat on a hot summer day.  We did this as kids, and now with your own kids, you may be repeating family traditions.  Tradition is wonderful, but if your waistline has expanded, it may be time to go for a slimmed down version of this treat.   In fact, if not careful, you can easily end up with an ice cream calorie equivalent of a whole day’s worth of calories!

Here are six tips to carry on with your ice cream tradition without increasing your waistline:

  • Avoid premium ice creams altogether:  A single 6 oz. scoop of premium ice cream can cost you 500 calories.  Oberweis chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate marshmallow, chocolate almond, butter pecan, butter brickle, chocolate caramel crunch, cookie dough, and strawberry cheesecake flavors can all claim that calorie content!
  • Eat like a little kid:  Calories and fat will always follow portion sizes, so you can either have a bite of someone else’s treat, or get yourself a kids scoop.  A kids scoop is roughly 2.5-3 oz., so you can assume the calories are slashed 50% from the adult version, translating to much more calorie and fat control. 
  • Exercise caution with low-fat ice cream options:  Don’t assume because the ice cream is low-fat that it is fine to have a double scoop!  The Oberweis single scoop low-fat flavors range in calories from vanilla at 250 calories to chocolate marshmallow at 300 calories.  Do the math and you can see how you might still get into a calorie bind by having a double scoop.
  • Avoid the final touches:  Dipping your DQ vanilla cone in chocolate will add anywhere from 100-200 calories to your treat, depending on the size of cone you opt for.  Adding  the candy pieces, whipped cream, and nuts will also give you some additional “energy” to the tune of at least 100 calories.
  • Go for cold alternatives:  Most ice cream franchises have healthier lower fat and calorie options for consumers.  Better options include sorbet, low-fat frozen yogurt, and sherbet.  Single scoop servings of these frosty alternatives may also be significantly lower in calories.  A 4 oz. serving of sorbet can run your calorie tab 80-150 calories.  Many frozen yogurt flavors are 150 calories or less per 4 oz. serving.  While sherbet is virtually fat-free, the calories can start adding up as a 4-6 oz. single scoop of orange sherbet can run as high as 260 calories.  If slashing fat is the objective, sherbet is a good way to go, but the calorie tab may run higher than anticipated.
  • Go to the supermarket instead:  There are so many frozen treats at your supermarket to take advantage of if you are trying to stay slim this summer.  Spend a few minutes looking at the nutrition fact labels and pick a product that suit your palate and nutritional goal.  There are many ice cream-like products hitting the mainstream and specialty grocery stores all the time that are both tasty and fit into anyone’s eating lifestyle.

What do you opt for at the ice cream store?  Can you share the nutrition information of your favorite frozen treat?

 

Is There a Weight Loss Bullet?

Actually, there are three weight loss bullets-food documentation, limiting restaurant food, and regular eating.  Dietitians have been aware of this information for decades, and a new study out this month supports these tried and true tactics for successful weight loss. 

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

  • Food documentation:  Food documentation can happen on a smart phone with numerous apps, desktop computer, or iPad.  I have clients who also mix it up a bit and even revert back to an old-fashioned small notebook and pen which is easy to carry around.  It does not matter how you document, because the fact that you document your food means you are not shoving food into your mouth without paying attention. You cannot “run and hide” from your calorie consumption, and the sheer act of “facing” those calories gives you a winning edge on successful weight loss because pretending you did not eat those calories is accomplishing nothing!
  •  Limit Restaurant Food:  Chances are pretty good that the meal you ate out for lunch or dinner contained many more calories than had you eaten at home.  Making a conscious choice to dine at home rather than away from home will increase the likelihood you will succeed at weight loss. Those that think otherwise are either in denial about the calorie content of standard restaurant cuisine or uninformed.  Remember the greasy bun you did not expect to come with your overly large burger or the really large serving of fries you probably would not have eaten at home? And, the cocktail and desserts typically not available at home but that you consumed while dining out are not helping your waistline either.  Try as you may, it is an extreme challenge to constantly dine out and manage your weight.  It is the first lifestyle change I recommend with new weight loss clients!
  • Eat Regularly: Even a hungry dietitian can walk into the kitchen and want to eat everything in sight if she or he went too long without eating! Eating on a regular schedule keeps your blood sugar up and your hunger down.  Going for very long periods between meals and snacks paves the way for a binge.  Intentional stockpiling of calories to save for later in the day usually backfires as well.  You will, in all likelihood, be so ravenous your guard will be down and you will overdo those calories and do so in a hurry as soon as you can eat.

No one ever said losing weight was easy.  But facing your eating and lifestyle behavior are half the battle in this process.  Being accountable, calorie savvy, and nourishing yourself on a timely basis will help make the weight loss process happen. 

What tools do you use?

5 Tech Strategies for Successful Weight Loss

Sample view of Nutrihand, my client online food tracker

If you just ate too many jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, and are vowing to get back to a healthy diet this week, consider using some tech tools to help with weight loss.  With some time ahead of us before the next holiday, it’s a great time to start tracking your diet and physical activity.  Tracking your food intake allows you to avoid denial about your energy consumption, and keeps you honest with yourself on a daily basis.  If weight loss is your goal, then the only way you will reach that goal is to somehow take in less energy than your body needs, or use more energy than you consume through food.  To lose one pound of fat per week, you must go into a 3500 calorie deficit per week, doing so either with less food, more exercise, or a combination of less food and more exercise!  While crossing your fingers and “hoping” the weight comes off is a rather common occurrence, being systematic with your focus can mean the difference between hoping and happening.

Here are some of my favorite techie strategies for weight loss:

  1. Use the Internet for Nutrition Information– If you “must” dine out often, you need to be aware of the nutrients and calories you are eating through food consumed away from home.  While a full service restaurant is not required by law to provide the calorie content of its meals, franchises with 20 or more locations are.  This is very helpful to anyone who frequents Panera to P.F. Chang’s.  With some foresight and planning, you can access each restaurant website prior to eating there, and arm yourself with an effective eating strategy.
  2. Online Food DocumentationNutrihand is one of the online food tracking platforms I now offer my clients. Clients log in their food intake and day-to-day, we can both see if goals are met.  Goals may revolve around not only calories, but also other specific nutrients such as carbohydrate, fat, protein, calcium, potassium, sodium, and fiber. There are similar programs on the Internet to serve a similar purpose, and it’s worth your while to experiment with a format that works for you.
  3. Using Smartphones for Food Related Decisions– At this point, there are so many great smartphone apps on the market and more become available daily.  Some can be used to track food on the spot, some to track your physical activity like a pedometer, and some can help us make better nutritional decisions at the grocery store. With the smartphone camera, you can even take photos of foods to share with your favorite dietitian for further discussion.
  4. A Pedometer-While basic pedometers are not exactly high-tech, they can be effective for assessing baseline physical activity.  Some of the slightly more expensive pedometers allow for downloading of collected data (steps, aerobic steps, calories, distance) to your computer through a USB port and cable.  This allows your data to be documented, graphed, and saved on your computer or shared with your dietitian.
  5. BodyMedia Armband– This is the ultimate assessment tool for determining how many calories you require for weight management.  Worn on the left upper arm, it measures your calorie burn in a 24-hour period.  It seems very accurate and after the collected data is downloaded, you are able to look at your energy expenditure in sections of the day.  This allows you to evaluate the activities and movements which are most effective at using energy and therefore facilitating weight loss. Another perk, it assesses your sleep quality which has been noted as being important in the weight loss process.

With the help of these technology driven self-monitoring tools, your behavior and diet will be both consistent and effective enough to help you reach your weight goals efficiently and effortlessly!

Do you have any special weight loss tech tools you would care to share?